Sutherland re-signed to return kicks
January 03, 2003
Short on kick and punt returners, the 49ers signed Vinny Sutherland, who handled return duties for San Francisco last season.
With Jimmy Williams on injured reserve following knee surgery last month, and wide receiver Cedrick Wilson hobbled with an ankle injury, the 49ers signed Sutherland, who was released in training camp.
Sutherland, a speedy wide receiver-kick returner from Purdue, was elated to be signed and will at least handle kickoffs and maybe more.
"I'm just happy to be off the street," Sutherland joked. He was watching his Boilermakers play in the Sun Bowl when he got the call from the 49ers on New Year's Eve.
Since his release from the Bears, where he spent five weeks, Sutherland has been working out near his South Florida home.
"It looks like he has lost some weight, and if anything is maybe a little bit quicker at catching punts," special teams coach Bruce DeHaven said.
Sutherland, who is listed at 5-foot-8, 195 pounds in the media guide, said he has lost 10 pounds.
To make room for him, the 49ers finally gave up on the return of linebacker Jamie Winborn this season. After nearly 15 weeks of trying to return from a torn medial collateral knee ligament, Winborn was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
The 49ers were hoping the injury would heal on its own, but Winborn had to undergo arthroscopic surgery three weeks ago to speed the process.
"It was successful as I understand it," coach Steve Mariucci said of Winborn's surgery. However, Mariucci admitted that there isn't enough time for Winborn to return from the operation.
DB SHUFFLE: One defensive back returns and another is lost. So it goes this season for the 49ers, who are hailing the return of safety Zack Bronson for Sunday's game against the Giants. At the same time, they may be losing starting right cornerback Jason Webster.
The third-year player sprained his ankle late in the third quarter Monday night against the Rams when he stepped on the foot of Rams receiver Isaac Bruce.
Since then, Webster has mainly been on crutches. Listed as questionable, Webster probably won't even try to run or cut until pregame warm-ups.
If Webster believes he can move well enough to help the team, he'll start.
"I'm doing better," Webster said after setting his crutches aside and sitting at a table in the 49ers' press room. "It's just a classic ankle sprain. "
Webster sprained the other ankle in college and missed one game, and it seems likely that will happen again.
If Webster can't start, the 49ers will go with rookie cornerback Mike Rumph, who has improved lately after struggling earlier this season.
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